Newsflash: “Isn’t it time,” writes Midwest attorney Steve S (why are people afraid to use their names when praising the administration?), “that someone gives Clinton credit for the Kosovo strategy? For two months all you heard were naysayers opining that the strategy was flawed. But it’s worked. There have to be some friends of the White House remaining in the press who could observe that a two month war, without American casualties and total victory, is a pretty efficient, wise strategy. Of course, you may want to wait for Milosevic to sign the dotted line, but with Milosevic’s preliminary acceptance, someone ought to give Clinton some credit.”
And remember the $40 billion Mexico bail-out that was ridiculed as a disaster? (It worked, and we’ve been paid back on schedule with interest.) And remember the push for NAFTA that any idiot (who listened to Ross Perot) could see would lead to a “giant sucking sound” that would send our unemployment rate soaring? (Unemployment is at a 30-year low, and it’s not just millions of low-wage jobs that have been created, but high-wage jobs as well.) How about the first Clinton budget, designed to get interest rates down and jump-start the economy? It got not a single Republican vote. A dud, they said. But down came interest rates and up went the economy. And what of the conventional wisdom among his critics that the President couldn’t possibly be taken seriously as a leader abroad? Tell it to the solidly unified 19 members of NATO, or to Tony Blair’s government, or to Gerhard Schroeder’s, among others, that credit the Clinton vision with significantly helping to guide their own.
It’s galling to those who dislike the President, and I don’t mean to rub it in. But in most respects, he and his team have done a terrific job. Average Americans’ lives are better as a result, and we investors haven’t done too badly, either.
It began with his choice of Vice President (contrast Al Gore’s substantive initiatives to “reinvent government” with whatever it was that Dan Quayle did in the same office), and runs page after page after page. From the Family Medical Leave Act to a streamlined and far more effective Small Business Administration to an active S.E.C. that has vigorously pursued the interests of the small investor to 100,000 more cops on the street and community policing and the Brady Bill to a tough line on Joe Camel to the third largest expansion of the national park system (behind only the two Roosevelts) to peace in Northern Ireland to an end to welfare as we’ve known it — just page after page after page.
And each page just makes the loyal opposition angrier. My friend Joe Andrew, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, has taken to calling the G.O.P.”the Grumpy Old Party.” They find a cloud in every silver lining, he says.
I don’t want to enrage those of you who get furious when I write things like this. And I certainly am proud to count among my friends many thoughtful Republicans . . . though most of them are dismayed that their party has been co-opted by a leadership far right of center. But I do think it’s worth noting that things are actually pretty good. We face lots of challenges and dangers ahead. But for most Americans, on balance and on average, things have rarely been better. And I don’t believe it all just happened by accident.
Monday: Three Money-Saving Ideas